Games for kids 4 to 16, plus tips on keeping them fun and fair for all participants.
Camp games are meant to be fun. Here are the very best camp-tested games for boys and girls aged 4 to 16, with easy-to-follow instructions and illustrations. The Frasers include indoor and outdoor games for both small and large groups, with some old favorites and lots of new, soon-to-be favorites.
The 175 Best Camp Games also includes advice on:
This practical guide is easy to use, and the more than 175 games are divided into five chapters:
Though written with camp leaders in mind, this book will appeal to youth activity directors, counselors, counselors-in-training, coaches, scout leaders, parents, teachers and any other adult looking for creative group activities for youth that include all participants and require little or no special equipment.
Laura and Mary Fraser are accredited teachers who spent a combined 16 years as camp leaders and activity program directors. Kathleen Fraser is an editor, writer and the parent of grown campers and camp leaders. The Frasers live in Mississauga, Canada.
Bernice Lum is an award-winning artist and illustrator of 40 books, including 3 Little Firefighters, Mighty Maddie and Stuff to Hold Your Stuff.
We began as kids, eager to play and even more eager to fit in. We wore old sneakers and hats that made our ears stick out. We thought that our camp in a park in the suburbs was pretty close to being in the wilderness. We thought our counselors were the bee's knees, especially when bees stung our knees and we needed ice packs and a hug.
We returned later as leaders, eager to help new campers make friends and have fun. We wore old sneakers and hats that made our ears stick out. We sometimes wished that our camp in a park in the suburbs was a sleep-away camp in the wilderness, but we were glad when we got to go home at the end of the day. We thought our campers were amazing and enthusiastic kids, even though they sometimes drove us a little crazy. We were proud when we could give them ice packs or a hug, but were even more proud when we handed the kids back to their parents, knowing that each child had enjoyed his or her day and felt like a meaningful part of a team.
Years later, teaching in classrooms, we meet our former campers and feel honored when their 13-year-old brains remember a summer we spent together when they were five and we played camp games.
Why We Play Games
Today, as children's time in front of various "screens" (television, computer, video game) is increasing, it is more and more important to encourage children to play games with other real live kids. Particularly for children who do not have brothers or sisters, and children who do not live in child-friendly neighborhoods, playing games at camp, at a recreation program, or at school may be the only time that they get to interact sociaUy with other children in their age group without the structure of learning a specific sports drill or vocabulary word.
In addition to the social benefits of game playing, the health benefits of daily physical activity are well documented. Play is extremely important in developing healthy children who will go on to become healthy adults. By getting kids up and moving, we teach them the importance of physical activity in living a healthy and long life.
Why We Wrote This Book
We began cobbling together binders with notes of games we played when visiting other programs, games we saw someone else play or heard someone describe, or games that we had tried before, but had found ways to modify to make them more exciting and engaging for each individual participant.
As we moved from the world of day camps to the world of teaching, we decided we needed to write this book. We needed to take our notes and turn them into a guide for today's camp counselors, youth activity directors, recreational program leaders, counselors-in-training, teachers, coaches, scout and club leaders, parents and anyone else looking for creative group activities that include all participants and require little or no specialized equipment.
How To Use This Book
We have divided the games into five chapters: Break the Ice, Take It Easy, Get Them Moving, Run Them Ragged, and Wet and Wild.
Games in BREAK THE ICE work best at the beginning of the program session, as many of them are based on learning each other's names and getting to know each other. These games range in activity level and amount of space required, but none of them will leave your participants exhausted. And although these games are ice-breakers, they can be played throughout the camp session to develop group unity and a team atmosphere. At the end of this chapter we also include some activities especially good for building skills and spirit among leaders and leaders-in-training.
TAKE IT EASY games require only minimal movement. However, they are not necessarily easy or low-energy or quiet: we don't believe that any game is a quiet game (with the exception of Silent Ball, at page 66). These games are good to play right after an exhausting game of tag, or just after lunch when tummies are full. Most of these games will work well in small spaces. This chapter includes a number of brain games.
GET THEM MOVING games require some movement and physical activity. These games are usually on-your-feet and may require quick bursts of speed to get from one place to another. They generally require a larger playing area than Take It Easy games, but many can still be played inside. We've included relays in this chapter.
RUN THEM RAGGED games are designed to exhaust your participants, to burn off their energy, and to raise heart rates. These games usually require a medium or large space and, though many can be played in gyms, most are more fun outdoors. Many variations of tag are included in this chapter.
Finally, WET AND WILD games are played in, around, or with water. Some of them are in-pool games, some can be played in a lake or river, and others use equipment such as buckets of water, sponges or water balloons to get participants wet and cooled off.
In addition to dividing the games by chapter, we have used several handy icons to help game leaders match their programing needs to the games in the book.
See the key, left, for an explanation of what each icon means.
We also share our camp-tested strategies for keeping play fun, fair and safe. Throughout the book we have included many recommendations and tips on how to play games, encourage participants and structure a camp program. These TIPS FOR LEADERS are based on our years of experience, especially at camp but also in school environments, as well as many enjoyable occasions spent comparing notes with other camp counselors, parents and educators.
With each game, you will find a list of required equipment, a recommended number of participants, and a game plan. Many games also include variations and suggestions for modifying games to include more or fewer participants, to increase or decrease the difficulty level, and to include participants with physical, intellectual or developmental disabilities or behavior challenges. These suggestions will help you keep your participants safe, happy and having fun, but leaders should continually monitor the games and activities the group is playing to prevent injured bodies and hurt feelings.
We encourage you to use this book as a starting guide for developing your own recreation program, whether it is in a camp, a school classroom or in your own backyard. Take our games and create your own rules. Make them fit the needs of your program and your participants. Use your imagination to create a new twist on an old classic, or combine the rules of two games to create a new super-game.
And be proud when, at the end of the day, you hear the kids saying how much fun they had playing games with you.
RAINY DAY GAMES can be played in spaces as small as a tent on wet weather days. Of course, they can also be played outside when it's dry.
LARGE GROUP GAMES are best with 15 or more players and can often be played with groups of 30 or more.
BRAIN GAMES require participants to use their strategizing, memory and problem-solving skills.
EASY IN, EASY OUT games are games without elimination that participants can easily join or leave without affecting the outcome of the game.
PLAN-AHEAD GAMES require some advanced planning - for example, filling up water balloons, drawing chalk outlines on the floor or selecting child-appropriate music.
MAKE-BELIEVE GAMES involve using your imagination: these range from imitating animals all the way to acting out charades.
EASY-TO-FOLLOW GAMES require limited instructions and limited specialized skill.
EVERYBODY WINS GAMES involve the entire group playing together and working toward a common goal.
TEAM-BUILDER GAMES develop teamwork and cooperation and teach children how to compete fairly and leaders-in-training how to work together.
Table of Contents
Break the Ice
Take It Easy
Get Them Moving
Just for Juniors
Run Them Ragged
Tag, You're It
Frozen Tag (aka Freeze Tag)
Wet and Wild
Tips for Leaders